|Reason for hearing
Violation of Rule 3.12: “Licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet, and general welfare of the community” (Re: May 15, 2014, Police and Liquor Board Inspector witnessed fights outside the club)
Violation of Rule 3.02: “Licensees shall cooperate with representatives of the Board, members of the police department, Health Department, Building Engineer’s office, Grand Jury and representatives of other governmental agencies whenever any such persons are on official business” (Re: May 15, 2014, DJ did not take heed of officers instruction and had to be warned with the possibility of being arrested)
Baltimore Police Detective L.C. Greenhill testified on May 15 at 1:00am, he was passing by the establishment and observed several police vehicles parked outside. There were several officers surrounding two suspects, who were allegedly engaged in a fight at the club. Greenhill stopped his car to provide further assistance to the officers. Police had responded to one fight outside the establishment and had broken it up. Another fight had happened later on the same evening, and the police decided to stay on the scene in order to prevent further fights. Detective Greenhill brought CitiWatch camera footage with him that he was told showed the two fights, but Greenhill had not watched the footage himself, so he did not know for sure whether it showed the two fights or not. The police made the decision to shut the club down for the night, to protect public health and safety. Greenhill told the manager, Mr. Coles, to shut down the bar; Mr. Coles went inside the bar, and Greenhill continued to hear music from inside. When he went inside, patrons were still drinking and the DJ was still playing. Greenhill told the DJ to turn the music off and told the patrons to leave, that the club was closed. According to Greenhill, the DJ, a Mr. Santos, became belligerent and was cursing and shouting at the officers. Greenhill informed Mr. Santos that if he did not stop shouting and cursing, he would be arrested. Upon questioning from the Commissioners, Greenhill clarified that Mr. Santos was shouting and cursing in general about the situation, not at the police officers personally. The licensee, Mr. Owens, was present and was asking why his bar was being closed. Liquor Board inspector Karen Brooks was also there and talked with Mr. Owens. Mr. Peter Prevas made a continuing objection to any of Greenhill’s testimony that contained hearsay, which was overruled.
Prevas then cross-examined Detective Greenhill. In response to his questions, Greenhill noted that he did just happen to drive by the establishment, that he was not called there. No one was arrested due to the fights, though a few people were detained and questioned briefly. He did not remember the names of all the officers who were present, off the top of his head. The fight was not going on when he arrived at the scene; it had already been broken up. The people inside the bar were not acting in a disorderly way. He testified that he was dressed in a police vest, with the word POLICE across it, and he displayed his police badge. He said that he was two to three feet away from the DJ when he asked him to turn the music off. Greenhill does not remember using foul language that night, and he testified that the basis for the closure was for the health and safety of the public, including passersby and patrons inside.
Prevas continued with his case, noting that he had subpoenaed Inspector Brooks to testify, but that she was not present. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth explained that Ms. Brooks is on leave and will not be back at work until probably October. Prevas then moved to dismiss the two charges. Chairman Ward granted the motion with respect to the Rule 3.12 violation, because Detective Greenhill’s testimony did not substantiate the charge that the police and inspector witnessed fights outside the club. Chairman Ward denied Prevas’ motion with respect to the second charge.
Prevas called the DJ from the night in question, Mr. Terrence Santos, to testify. He has worked at the establishment for 13 years. He did not observe any fights. Santos testified that no one told him to turn the music off until Detective Greenhill came inside. Santos said that Greenhill shouted “cut the goddamned music off!” and was not in uniform. Santos said that he did not realize that Greenhill was a police officer and did not see his badge or vest. Shortly thereafter, a uniformed police officer came into the establishment with a manager and told Santos to turn the music off; Santos says that he obeyed immediately. When asked whether he became upset with the police, Santos said, “I kinda sorta … yes.”
Mr. Raynard Dana Owens, the manager on the night in question, testified next. Detective Greenhill had thought that Raynard was Donald Owens, the licensee, but Raynard was present and Donald was not on the night in question. Reynard said that he knew Detective Greenhill from “several several several several visits” to the establishment. According to Owens, Greenhill told him, “I’m shutting you down.” Owens asked, “For what?” Greenhill replied, “my officers don’t have time to be coming out here to this place. There’s been two fights, and I just want you to shut down.” Owens then responded, “well, if you’re going to shut me down, can you call the Duty Chief. The Duty Officer  normally is the person who assesses the situation and shuts the place down.” Greenhill said, “I have the authority to [shut the bar down] and the Duty Chief won’t do anything but call me to come down here and make that decision.” Owens explained that, one time, a police officer tried to shut down his bar, but the Duty Chief overruled the officer’s decision. At that point, Detective Greenhill asked Inspector Brooks to deal with Mr. Owens. Brooks advised Mr. Owens, that since it was 1:30am, he should just close the bar; his regular closing time is 1:45 or 2:00am anyway. Owens told the Board that Brooks told him that “this would not be a reported incident.” Commissioner Jones asked Detective Greenhill to respond to the last comment made by Mr. Owens, and Greenhill said that it might not have been a reported incident from Brooks, but “as far as any acts of violence that happen at bars, we (the police) have to report them.”
Prevas closed by pointing out that Rule 3.02 states that “licensees shall cooperate” and argued that a DJ is not within the ambit of the rule. Prevas noted that the DJ’s testimony was that he did cooperate and he should be found not guilty.
|Other reasons given for decision
Chairman Ward stated, in response to Prevas’s suggestion that the licensee shouldn’t be responsible for the DJ’s actions, that a licensee is always responsible for conduct of customers, and he or she is certainly responsible for the conduct of his employees. Ward added that it was clear to Mr. Santos that he was to shut down regardless of whom told him to shut down. He also pointed out that, in his opinion, Mr. Owens also refused to cooperate, by requiring confirmation by the Duty Officer before he would shut the bar down. Lack of cooperation, said Ward, is very serious. He noted that the location of 606-08 W Lexington St is in a problem area of Baltimore City and that bars in this area have a responsibility to be extra cautious. For Mr. Owens to ask for a Duty Officer is the height of noncooperation.
Commissioner Moore agreed with Judge Ward and said that if there had been evidence offered regarding the fights outside, there would have been a different (presumably harsher) result. She then addressed Detective Greenhill and the police officers present in the room, saying “witnesses that have evidence should look at the evidence. You got the video; oh gee whiz, look at it! See what you see, and then come testify about it.”
Jones agreed with the other two commissioners. He said, “even the tone with which Mr. Owens testified is agitated to me.” However, he disagreed with the fine; he thought it was too high for a first offense of this kind.
Prevas pointed out that, if this is the establishment’s first offense within three years, the highest fine that the Board can impose is $500, according to Article 2B. Ward retorted, “you’re lucky I didn’t close you down!” Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that it was actually not the first offense within three years; there was a previous violation of Rule 4.18 in 2012, so the $2,000 fine was lawful.